A COFFEE company that aims to take Fairtrade ‘to the next level’ has won a major plaudit – being named one of the most innovative co-operative businesses in the country.
At the movement’s annual conference, Co-operative Congress, from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 June, Wolverhampton-based Revolver will find out whether it has won the Innovation in Co-operative Enterprise accolade.
The co-operative was started by music mogul Paul Birch – the man who signed the Stone Roses – and is unusual in that it is a co-operative that was spun out from an existing private company.
When not releasing and promoting records by artists as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Deep Purple and Leo Sayer, Paul was immersing himself in the Fair Trade movement and was active in the Wolverhampton Fairtrade City group and the Fairtrade Association Birmingham.
With Paul’s music marketing background, the company initially considered teeshirts and hoodies for pop and rock fans, before diversifying into branded teeshirts for charities, including Christian Aid.
A deal with Mid-counties Co-operative, which operates 450 sites across the region, gave birth to the concept of plain Fairtrade teeshirts in different colours, which were packaged in boxes rather than hung from rails – making them ideal for most retail outlets.
But while the initiative was a roaring success in some of the 20 stores that took part in the trial, it was less popular in others. The introduction of an export tariff by the Indian government – which meant the company was buying items for as much as it was previously selling them for – led the directors to seek out a new market… and they hit on coffee.
Richard Bickle, one of the directors, explained: “While you might think Fairtrade is fairly well represented in the coffee industry, the benefits usually only extend to the producers.
“We were keen that everyone along the supply chain – from growers and shippers to outlets and even customers – were treated fairly, so a multi stakeholder co-operative was created to which everyone will belong.
“We feel it is the only fair and equitable way to run global commodities. This is the next logical step for the Fairtrade movement and we are leading the way.”
Revolver sources its coffee from a co-operative in Columbia and a supplier of Fairtrade blended coffees from Tanzania and Kenya.
And while traditional Fairtrade coffees are aimed at the typical ground coffee consumer – white, middle class, middle aged males – Paul’s music marketing background will be wheeled into action again as the co-operative targets a younger demographic.
Having signed an agreement to get Revolver coffee on the shelves of 39 Mid-counties Co-operative stores, the company is in discussions to sell its coffee at universities. Local authorities, independent coffee shops and even coffee machine manufacturers are also considering adopting the brand.
Meanwhile, Revolver has the contract to supply all the coffee at Co-operative Congress, which this year is being held in Birmingham, providing a sampling opportunity to thousands of delegates.
Winning the title of New Co-operative of the year would, obviously, be the crowning glory for the team at Congress. But, says Richard, “simply to have been nominated is an enormous feather in our caps.”
To find out more about Revolver coffee log on to http://revolverworld.com
For more information about setting up a business or community organisation that is a co-operative, log on to the Co-operatives West Midlands website at www.cooperatives-wm.coop
Co-operatives Fortnight 2011, the national campaign which unites the co- operative sector, takes place from 25 June to 9 July 2011 with the theme Yours to Share.